Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reverend Wright redux

I hadn’t planned to stay away so long. I was somewhat downtrodden about Obama’s loss in our state, although it was expected. I am also somewhat disappointed that people (including me) are not interested in issues, preferring to speculate who would be more fun to have a beer with, the black guy or the old lady. Well, I have looked at the candidates’ websites, but not taken the time to actually read their policy proposals.

I had planned to write something on Sunday, but my wife wiped it out when she went to read her email.

Still, I am a bit inspired tonight, after watching the news about Obama’s press conference. Pundits and the like were annoyed that Obama had not done more to distance himself from Reverend Wright when those YouTube videos had first surfaced a couple of weeks ago. Obama had instead offered a complex statement about how he rejected the statements as edited, but understood the man. I can understand this idea. After all, Reverend Wright had no control over these videos, presumably edited from the church’s DVD.

But now Reverend Wright has embarked on what seems to be a speaking tour. Now the Reverend has complete control over his own words, even whether to say anything. And he is speaking up a storm, saying things that African Americans are perhaps like to agree with or at least understand, but that may chill or annoy white voters. Louis Farakhan (spelling?) is one of the great thinkers of the 20th and 21st centuries. The US government is using AIDS to try to wipe out African Americans. Now, I would give Mr Farakhan his due, as a highly successful leader, but I suspect there are a lot of people who are as intelligent, and no small number more intelligent than him. And while the US government has a shameful record in using African Americans as guinea pigs in some experiments, the notion that the government is both smart and stupid enough to use Aids as a weapon against anyone is sheer fantasy.

So of course Mr. Obama did not say anything until now. He has to respond now, and he responded in a way that leaves no room for doubt, that makes it clear Obama shares the values of his white constituents with regard to African American radicalism. Some of his African American supporters may be a little disappointed, but they likely understand why Obama has to say that.

I had thought the first African American President might be someone like Colin Powell or Condi Rice. Like Margaret Thatcher, who did not have to prove anything about whether she was tough enough for the job, so too a Colin Powell would never be mistaken for a radical. But Barack Obama surprised me. It did not seem to be an issue with him. He convinced enough people that the number of people who felt the country was ready for a black President went from 50% to 75% over the last year (according to Meet the Press). But now the Clinton’s are trying to tie labels on him, radical, Muslim, weak. Now, I don’t think Obama’s lead of maybe a hundred and fifty delegates is a sufficient reason for Hillary to drop out of the race. But I am beginning to be convinced that her willingness to do the Republicans work for them and go negative is a reason for her to drop out.

I guess we’ll see.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day.

It is actually an accident that I rode my bike from the house today. My wife insisted I wait for the plumber this morning. I had taken my car to the mechanic yesterday with a lit “check engine” light. My mechanics, though, are pretty busy, and did not look at it yesterday. So with no car, I grabbed the folding bike at 10:00 and took off for the bus. I lasted all the way to Centre and Aiken (from Negley and Hampton) on the 71A, before it looked like too many people were going to get on, and make exiting difficult. That’s better than previously on that bus. The bike does tuck neatly under the front seats (where we are supposed to let the elderly and infirm sit). But it has to come out again, and that is a problem if too many people are on the bus. So we’ll see what the future holds.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Last comment before we pull the lev ... push the button.

John MacIntire (whom I probably ought to link to) makes a pretty good point in his latest post. Since we are all pretty sure Obama is going to win the nomination, if you are voting for Mrs. Clinton, you might ask yourself why? Are we sure Obama is going to win? Well, even when he lost primaries, he didn't lose by much. Apparently the Clinton's are pretty sure of a win in Puerto Rico. But when Obama does try to campaign in places, he is able to narrow Mrs Clinton's lead. So she didn't win by that much in California and New York, or even New Hampshire. Basically he is not likely to lose his lead, and probably will improve on it before the convention.

So do we think she should stay in the race? Well, we know that if she does, its not issues she is going to be talking about. She will be looking for any mud to sling at him, and he will be forced to do the same. Which will then happen again in the fall, when the Republicans go after the Democratic nominee.

MacIntire's point, in other words, is that a vote for Hillary is a vote for John McCain. And while I might not agree totally with that, there is a point there. Pundits keep talking about democrats coming together at the convention. Maybe we should do that now.

When good answers go bad

Chad Herman of TWM commented about how Obama’s answer in the debate about Iranian nuclear weapons was so much less satisfying than Clinton’s. I think it was Washington Week in Review that picked up on this same answer, albeit from Mrs. Clinton. They noted, as did Mr. Hermann, that Mrs. Clinton’s answer indicated an expansion of US policy in the Middle East. They went on to say what a bad idea that would be. Mrs. Clinton was talking about intervening in conflicts between Iran and anyone else. Presumably that would also include conflicts between other players in the region, such as if Libya and Egypt have a dustup. The problem is that the Middle East has seen what happens when we get involved in the area. Under Bush we brought just enough firepower to further wreck Afghanistan and Iraq, but not enough resources to fix either country. Granted, we did bring enough resources to make corrupt officials fabulously wealthy, but we better skip over that.

On this particular point of distinction, I would say Obama gave a reasoned response about how he wouldn’t let Iran get nukes in the first place, but if they did he would deal with the situation at the time based on the circumstances. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was talking about expanding the US’s role in the region at a time when our popularity is at an all time low. I don’t see how that could be good for us, at least not until we take steps to re-establish our credibility.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Barden and Obama

I had wrote that I would wait until Monday to post again, but stuff has happened I want to say things about. So first, for the third time, let me direct you to Nicholas Kristoff’s Thursday column and the comments.

I noticed that no one in the Burghospree picked up on Don Barden dropping his pledge of $3 million dollars assistance for the Hill. I guess that was because the story broke on a Friday afternoon and everything else happening around town is more interesting. I was surprised that the One Hill people were even moderately sympathetic to Barden. I’ve lost track of who all was supposed to commit money to the community, I just remember that it is not going to be the City or the County, and now, apparently, Don Barden.

I kind of like David Brooks. As a conservative, he seems more human than many. But Brooks is capable of being a partisan whenever he chooses. In his last few columns he has bee savaging Barack Obama, and did so again today on the “Meet the Press”. One of his complaints is that Obama made a promise to remove all the troops from Iraq in 16 months, in the debate. It fell to Michelle Norris, who was also on MTP, to point out that Hillary Clinton made the same promise in the debate, albeit in her own words. Brooks had praised Obama earlier in the year, and now acts disillusioned, as if he might ever have voted for or supported Obama.

I will say this, it seems to me that Obama is getting frustrated and tired in this campaign. He is acting human. But we always knew, or should have known, that Obama is human. He is intelligent, a good, occasionally great speaker and seem perfectly capable to be the President. But he slips sometimes. He slipped in using the words “bitter” and “cling to” in San Francisco. I personally think he was frustrated that he had not made more progress in Pennsylvania. He may have done it intentionally, to give the media a story about how his gaffe cost him the win in Pennsylvania, but he was only back 5%, or something. But that would be a silly calculation, and it seems easier just to be careful and try hard.

A troll on 2PoliticalJunkies gave an address for a couple of YouTube snippets. In those clips, you see Obama speaking, mentions Hillary Clinton, and then casually reached up and scratches his cheek. With his middle finger. We know this happened and the audience was the intended target because they give a Fox Sitcom type of whooooo. Like I said, Obama human and probably frustrated. And showing that he lives in Chicago.

I still intend to vote for him.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thinking about things ...

In my last post, I recommended Nicholas Kristof's Thursday column. I also recommend the comments, where people sort of, sometimes agreed with Mr Kristof, but almost always then said "except for me".

I'll have something more to say here on Monday.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

two different issues...

I think this is a bad time for a local political scandal to break, right before the presidential primary. It’s come out that Pat Ford met with executives of another billboard company (Liberty Pacific Media, not Lamar) in 2006, and that their understanding was that he agreed to allow them to set up two new billboards, one downtown and one on the north side, both without the public hearing process, even though city code stated bill boards could not be put in those locations. They met on Mt Washington (where I never go anymore). Mayor Ravenstahl apparently put in an appearance at that meeting, although he now says he does not remember discussing bill boards, especially on the north side or downtown. Those two executives from Liberty Pacific donated $12,500 each to Mayor Ravenstahl’s reelection campaign a month later. The billboards went up, were sold to a different media company, and then came down. Granted, this would have likely come out soon, but I can’t help but think that Mr. Ford’s loud protest of having been framed on Monday likely sped the media’s investigation along (as I suggested might happen in my previous post). Now Our Mayor finds himself being dragged (further) into this mess.

On the national front, I have to take issue with something Hillary Clinton has said repeatedly, including again last night. She claims 35 years experience in politics. Now, consider an analogy. I don’t know what Dr Starzl’s wife does for a living (or if he is even married). But assume she is a doctor, but not a surgeon. She has lived with the man thirty some years (say), and listened to his tales of transplant surgery, met the operating room nurses, but has never performed a transplant. Would you want her doing your liver transplant?

Granted, Mrs. Clinton was an unusually active first lady, in Arkansas and in the White House. She did extensive work on children’s and women’s issues in both places. But I would trust her a lot more if she described herself in a more complicated way, maybe as the ultimate insider *and* outsider. She was there while the decisions were being made, she met a lot of everybody, national and international, but she didn’t make the decisions that pissed people off. She could say she is coming to the office as a newcomer who happens to know where the bathrooms are.

But Hillary has dumbed her message down, saying she has 35 years of experience. When ABC brought up the bitter and cling to remark in the debate last night, Hillary took the low road, describing her faith and her roots instead of trying even a feeble conciliatory remark, to say something like how we should move past that. That’s why I didn’t blame Barack a bit when he brought up the “bake cookies” remark she made in 1992 a little while later, while Hillary stood there, visibly angry, practically shaking.

They have both taken shots at each other, it is true. But Barack has pulled off making it seem like defensive moves on his part, because in polls, on the question of trustworthy-ness, he is ahead of her by twenty points.

Nicholas Kristof had a very interesting commentary in today’s NYTimes. I personally believe he is looking at cognitive dissonance in our choices of presidential candidates. It dovetails reasonably well with the book I was pitching during the Mayoral race in the fall, "The Political Brain" by Drew Westen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

doth protest too much ...

Any lawyer will tell you, if you get pulled over by the cops or if they knock at your door, don’t say anything, in the case of a criminal investigation don’t answer questions or in the case of a traffic stop don’t argue with them. If you have to say anytihing in a criminal investigation, just ask to contact a lawyer. Pat Ford clearly has not absorbed this idea. He is persisting in trying to defend himself in the media. He is blaming the Housing Authority, specifically A Fulton Meachem for tryingto smear him, as well as claiming that bloggers threatened him (specifically Bram Reichbaum). Well, if a blogger lies about something, it is likely to come out eventually. The problem is, if Mr. Ford lies about something, and the media investigates, it is likely to come out now. It is reasonable for Mr. Ford to ask what conflict of interest he had as executive director of the URA and chairman of the board of the Housing Authority. It is *not* reasonable for Mr. Ford to assert that Mr. Meachem was trying to block an audit of the Housing Authority if no one else has heard of this attempted audit. According to the PG, the Vice Chair of the Authority said she had no knowledge of an attempted audit or any attempt to resist it. Also apparently Mr. Ford had previously agreed to leave the Housing Authority board, and then changed his mind. I myself have no idea of the timing here, whether it is related to Matt Hogue’s charges of inappropriate finances at the Authority.

On the other matter, the gifts of ties, cigars and a surround sound system, Mr. Ford claims that the surround sound gift retails for $215, below a $250 threshold for the state. Well, hell, you could get a $250 laptop, with printer and wi-fi, if you got in line at Best Buy, probably by midnight, for the sale on last year’s Black Friday. If Mr. Ford can demonstrate $215 is the price for his system, he should in fact be in the clear. But it is not the media he needs to convince (as least not yet), it is a State Ethics Board. Regardless of the value of the system, it ought to be declared, just to make sure Mr. Ford does not go over any yearly maximum, and in the interest of good government.

In a month a that saw the city-county merger plan and the Act 47 hearing, and will see the primary election, Mr. Fordhas to work hard to keep the spotlight on himself, and in doing so is begging reporters to dig into his personal life. If he lays low, lets the Ethics Board do his job, he could get away with the best possible result. But he seems detirmined to argue with the cops, to fix it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Billboard scandal, go away ...

I thought the billboard issue was resolved. Sure, Ruth Ann Daily (who apparently doesn’t like any billboards) wants it taken down. Given the cost apparently already sunk into the project, I think Lamar would fight that as hard as they could. Otherwise, though, Friday saw a suspension of the Lamar law suit against the city council members, as well as Lamar agreeing to suspend construction and submit to public hearings. And I have no idea where the public will come down on this. On the one hand, the public does not seem to mind LED billboards in general. On the other hand, an LED billboard would clash with the old fashioned motif the city has created on Grant Street. On a third hand (?) New York’s Times Square has embraced lighted advertising for how long? My only stake in this issue is that the process needed to be followed, and now it is. Of course, that partially constructed billboard is a problem, in that if it does have to come down it will be a big punishment for Lamar. Frankly I am ok with that too, but I don’t think it will go that way.

Meanwhile, we hear from Char that Pat Ford wants to fight this thing, or at least complain about his treatment. I think he is making a mistake (probably the latest in many). Right now, the atmosphere in Pittsburgh is that small gifts are in fact ok. Surround sound systems may be problematic, but the whole neckties and cigars thing is probably fine. At least fine enough that he will escape indictment, although I suspect he will lose his job.

In this town, though, the corporations realize that we are far from Harrisburg, that Philly is likely to grab a lot of the attention, and that while the farmers in T part of the state don’t like us, they are inclined to leave us alone, as long as we don’t ask them for anything. So in that spirit the State Ethics Board is likely to give Pat Ford a token investigation and ultimately just a reprimand, to avoid having to look into Luke Ravenstahl, who has his own sets of gifts he has not documented. But if Pat Ford kicks up all sorts of trouble, all bets are off.

Actually, I would like to know how many Steelers, Pirates, Penguins or golf course tickets/admissions have been given to the Mayor and by whom, how many times someone else has picked up the tab for dinner and who they are, all sorts of things. But unless Pat Ford has inside information about mobsters from Youngstown hanging out with the Mayor, the State Ethics People will not likely broaden the investigation to include Ravenstahl. The most Ford could do is embarrass/irritate the Mayor, and make his suspension permanent, but without pay. So I guess I am saying that all the roads I see lead to Ford being gone.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Near the end of an interesting week...

Hey, spring is in the air, the Pens are in the playoffs, the Presidential candidates are in town off and on, and ... mumble mumble there is a city government scandal mumble.

What? I expect most of the public, even the voting public, has not heard about the LED billboard business. The people most likely to pay attention, besides democratic committee persons all over the city, are probably the people who had likely voted for Mark DeSantis. In other words, people neither Lamar nor the Mayor have to worry too much about. Still, the Mayor just got done endorsing City/County merger, so he doesn’t want his national image tarnished. If the State Ethics Board does a reasonable job, Pat Ford will probably be linked to a series of low level corrupt practises, not enough for any real charges but enough to have him removed from this city’s government. So the Mayor wants to be seen as getting out on the right side of this issue.

Meanwhile, I don’t go downtown, so I don’t see these things. I read that the billboard in question is almost finished. Lamar will be able to present the city with a fait accompli, a billboard that is ready to go, maybe today. That’s probably why they filed a lawsuit against the five city council persons that is almost totally without merit, to provide an excuse for them to ignore the zoning board’s order to suspend activity. I predict the city will refuse to provide electricity for the billboard for maybe a week, and then let them go ahead and advertise. What would be nice would be if the Mayor found an appropriate punishment for Lamar’s role in this. Providing some level of free advertising for the city’s human and social service non-profits would do nicely, but I have my doubts this Mayor would do that (free campaign advertising is more his speed).

Speaking of the Mayor, as I said, he is trying to get out to the right side of local issues, the side of championing the rule of law and the interests of the people. But if the Mayor hadn’t been interested in asserting his power, or in making the city more developer friendly, or in being a 27 year old, maybe none of this would have had to come up. Mayor Ravenstahl understands that modern politics is all about making connections and raising campaign funds. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that good politicians do those things so they can also spend some time helping people.

Will a judge in the court of common pleas throw out the Lamar suit today? I don't think the Lamar lawyers would care, except they want the five city council people to post bond, something Lamar can take home if they are forced to abandon the billboard.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Just another average, ordinary day in the 'burgh

Pittsburgh bloggers have started to spontaneously utter the phrase “This is extraordinary” in increasing numbers of posts and comments. Well, I have anyway. Lamar Advertising is currently refusing to halt construction on the downtown LED billboard, though I grant you that might change anytime. When asked about it at the Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing, Lamar’s attorney’s said the council members who appealed the permit would have to go to Common Pleas Court and post bond. Presumably this somewhat enigmatic response referred to Lamar’s lawsuit against the five City Council members.

Well, there is apparently a hearing tomorrow for this lawsuit. It is possible some things will be resolved then. I wouldn’t be surprised if the lawsuit wasn’t thrown out, although it is also possible that the four council persons who filed after Dr Dowd might have to withdraw their appeal from the ZBA. On the other hand, Lamar’s argument that private conversations between council persons constitutes a plot against Lamar is ludicrous on it’s face.

Some commenter’s on other blogs have argued City Council is wasting everyone’s time with petty and unimportant issues. It would be nice to see City Council discuss crime or how to improve the business climate in the city. But these issues, the billboard and take home cars, are important because they get to the heart of the Ravenstahl administration’s style of governing. We learn that we do not know how many take home cars there are because some city employees park them near by there homes in city lots, and are not on the list for take home cars. And of course we now know that Lamar got a foot in the door with billboards years ago, and Pat Ford guided their fortunes over the years. And that George Specter objected years ago and was ignored. By tackling these issues now, Council will have a firm precedent for how to address the bigger problems.

Gifts? ...We don't need no gifts ... I don't have to show you any stinking gifts

It's probably just me, and there's no direct quote, but it seems to me that there is an air of wistfulness about our Mayor as he says he was aware of the gifts and Vlasach did not offer him any gifts.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The week goes on ...

It’s interesting how much things have changed in the last couple of months. The Mayor’s, or perhaps his administration’s, indiscretions have moved from being stupid, frat boy class to closer to indictable political favoritism. The City Council has gone from one of its do-nothing phases to a more confrontational with the Mayor, activist phase. And everyone seems to be acknowledging that Act 47 should have always, or at least should now include a provision for debt relief and for the under funded pensions.

At last night’s Act 47 hearing, called for a few months ago, it is reported that all the players acknowledged the city’s long term problems, and no one made a more than qualified call for an end to oversight status. The Mayor has stopped asking for an end to oversight himself, instead leaving it up to the state (i.e. leaving them with the blame if the City goes right back into deficit). Apparently the Mayor did say that if the city does remain under Act 47 oversight, we need a new plan, one that tackles the debt and pensions. Doug Shields argued that the City has met the criteria to exit oversight status, but he acknowledged we would be right back where we were in 2003, with deficits approaching. He wants the legislature to allow the city to tax non-profits, and wants help with health care costs and the pensions. Others argued for a new Act 47 plan, one that seems to deal with our real situation.

Just because people in this region have faced reality doesn't mean the State Legislature or Governor are. It is possible that the recent call for City/County merger will play well in Harrisburg, despite (or maybe because of) the lack of details for the plan. Meanwhile, I think the Governor is busy trying to get a win for Hillary in the primary.

Meanwhile, a story has broken that Pat Ford turns out to be a close friend of a Lamar executive (h/t to the Comet). The Ravenstahl administration is looking more and more like “lil’ Bush”, which ironically was some commenters’ nickname for Mark DeSantis. The timing of the Trib’s release of this story, the day before the Zoning Board hearing on the billboard and the day after Lamar filed suit about that appeal, could not be more perfect. I can feel Richard Scaife's delight at the City’s anguish. I feel a little bad for Pat Ford, but he seems to have picked up a Dick Cheney-like disregard for procedure and accounting rules. At the very least, he probably needs to be a salesman for some private sector company, preferably as far as possible from public money.

I assume this means the appeal hearing before the Zoning Board will go well.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Our own everything including the kitchen sink, not Hillary's

So a lot happened last week. And a lot is going to happen this week. Last week George Specter issued his opinion on the electronic billboard. And what an interesting opinion it was. Mr. Specter opined that Ms Tymoczko (the Zoning Board of Adjustment director or administrator) acted appropriately in her decision to approve the permit the billboard, because of the 4 year practice of allowing vinyl billboards to be swapped with electronic ones. However, he split the difference, also opining that a variance would have been required for this electronic billboard by the Zoning Board (which had not happened). So he stated the practice should stop in the future.

How does that affect the appeal filed by Dr. Dowd, which was joined by several other council members? I think over all it strengthens it. All that has to be stated is that since the billboard is not up yet, the rules established by Mr. Specter’s opinion call be applied retroactively. We now know that Lamar received special treatment, which they really should not have reasonably expected, so they should be blocked, or at least forced to renegotiate. By the way, I am not a lawyer, so that is nothing more than my uninformed opinion.

A few minutes later, in an odd bit of timing, the Nordenberg committee released its report on City County Merger, only five months late. I’ve only scanned the report, but there does not seem to be a whole lot of specifics. I notice that Yarone Zober and a deputy county manager, Kathleen McKenzie, were the vice chairs of the Nordenberg committee. That might explain the vagueness of the report and the timing of its release. Another interesting part to this issue is Our Mayor’s conversion to the religion of merger, as of the day of the release of the report. You really do wonder if the Mayor is getting instructions from Rendell or Onorato or both. First, hours before Ravenstahl endorsed Hillary Clinton, he was saying he didn’t even know if he was a super delegate. Now he says he started to take merger seriously only in the last couple of weeks. These were the same weeks where Council learned how to be assertive. I believe Our Mayor is looking forward to getting rid of City Council, and was letting them know that (my opinion). If true, it is a pretty short sighted view. I hope the Mayor makes up and starts to play nice with Council, though, starting tomorrow. Council is likely to stay in existence well past the 2009 election. I think they will vote for merger when the issue comes up, but if the progressive coalition holds together, they can let the Mayor know that they will decided vote by vote whether to continue supporting the merger. This is not something coming from outside, so Council will now have the option of being petty without endangering State money essential for the City’s survival.

Speaking of outside State money, the Act 47 hearing is coming up Tuesday, I believe. I guess my invitation or public notification got lost in the mail or went to an old address. Seriously, the only reason I know about this was from a tangential mention in a story about city firefighters wanting to get in some early negotiations on contracts. But I really wonder if the removal of Act 47 will be the Mayor’s reward for having endorsed Mrs. Clinton. My fantasy is that the State people will say we need a whole new five year plan, where we need to act like grown-ups, with a real capital budget, not some ephemeral chunk of the operating budget that is a faux surplus. They would also say we need to hit the non-profits harder for money, and apply it to the debt and under funded pensions. In turn, the State would match the additional revenues from the non-profits as admission that they had a role in our problems. We probably wouldn’t wipe out the debt in five years, but we might reduce it by a quarter.

That, as I say, is my fantasy. Reality will probably be the State cutting us loose from Act 47, with praise from Democrats and threats from Republicans. And my God have mercy on our souls, because Wall Street will not.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Chad, not the Alltel guy, not hanging.

I just noticed that my name comes right before Chad Hermann’s on the Tube City Almanac’s blog roll for Pittsburgh.

Bram at the Comet posted about Chad’s four volume analysis of Obama’s speech on race. Like Bram (I assume), I wanted to wait until Chad had finished before posting about it. But today was one of the days where I leave CMU a bit early to go to the Southside to prepare and/or review taxes. So I couldn’t post at 4:30.

I rather like Bram’s comparison of Chad to Ahab. Personally I feel like I read a work by Melville going through the four parts of Chad’s criticism of Obama. After all, Obama’s speech was pretty long to begin with, and to reprint it and criticize it, sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph....with repeated declarations that Obama is lying, or obfuscating or whatever, over and over. We get it, you don’t like the way the man talks.

Bram posits four overarching themes for Chad’s four volumes, including this one at number four: “The speech was not written as well as it could have been.”. But really I think there is one theme running through Chad litany of criticisms. Obama could not have listened to Reverend Wright for twenty years without being influenced by him, without having developed a hatred of the white man as deep as the Reverend’s. By which Chad is saying that the Civil Rights movement is over, should be declared dead. Any further progress needed by anyone is the responsibility of that person. Dress neatly, pay attention in school, read books, speak clearly and without colloquialism. In other words, behave like a white person. Take responsibility. It’s not that there is institutionalized racism, it’s that white people don’t hire African American’s who act black. So as long as you have children out of wedlock and don’t have a proper family structure, you are responsible for your own situation and should not ask white people for help (much less demand it).

But as I say, Chad seems to believe Obama is a fraud because he won’t take a side and either say Wright is absolutely wrong or say that Wright is in fact right. In other words, Chad is angry at Obama because Obama won’t end his own candidacy. Obama is the first African American to be the front runner in a presidential primary. To reach that position, Obama must have constituencies in both the African American and the white communities. And he can’t let either constituency stare at the other one too long, think too hard about how much that different skin tone next to you has a different life. But Chad seems to want Obama to either say to the black faces in the crowd to grow up and take responsibility or to say to the white faces that its their fault so many blacks are poor. Instead, Obama makes a speech that hints at both, but lets both sides off the hook too. Because that’s what you do in a presidential campaign, you talk, and you try to make it sound fresh and new (like it’s the first time an African American has been the front runner in a presidential primary).

Whatever Obama's personal beliefs on race are, he seems to want to project a balanced view, allowing for the views of both African-Americans and whites. I actually disagree with Obama that the United States has made great progress towards equal rights, I think a fair amount of segregation has simply transformed into ossified ghettos. But regardless, to accept Chad's position that Obamais a fraud, we have to agree that his mind is so weak as to be influenced by twenty years of Sundays with Reverend Wright. My feeling on that is that Obama has been African American all his life, he almost certainly developed some ideas before moving to Chicago (albeit in Hawaii, Indonesia, Los Angeles, New York and Cambridge). Just like many, many undergraduates have read Marx and Lenin and only a few have become radicals, so too Mr Obama could listen to the Reverend Wright (whom I believe is only occasionally as dramatic as Youtube would have us believe) and not be turned into foaming at the mouth bomb thrower.